I grew up as the social outcast. I was always chunky, had urinary problems as a preteen, plus I was terribly shy and felt out of place in social situations. My family life wasn’t much better; my dad was an amputee in a wheelchair who was dying. And he wasn’t very happy about it. However, I was “Daddy’s Girl” and cherished him regardless of the violent mood swings he would often have. I remember one night where he chased my mother and my sister with a knife, while I hid under my bed. Not long after, I developed bizarre behaviors that concerned my mother and she started me in therapy.
I can perfectly track my first suicidal feelings and self-harm to how sick my dad was at that time of my life. It seemed as he got sicker, so did I. My mother was frantically concerned, so my therapist suggested that I be admitted to a psychiatric ward for children. I was 13 years old. I was admitted to the CHIPS unit (Children’s Hospital Inpatient Psychiatric Unit) at Newington Children’s Hospital in Newington, CT. There I spent three months in intensive therapy, I had a lot of anger about my father dying and through art, music, and other therapies I was able to work through it. However it didn’t cure the crippling inferiority complex I developed, or change the fact that my father was dying.
After being discharged from the hospital, I had as normal a time that a child with a dying parent could have for a while. I made friends in the new neighborhood we moved to, and my family did therapy sessions every week to talk about our feelings about my father’s terminal illness. Not long after, my father passed away and the demons returned…I was 14 years old.
When my father died, I lost the one person I was closest to in the world. My mother was so depressed that she barely left her bedroom, and my sister turned to drugs and promiscuity. I turned to scratching myself with a broken cassette case. When the pain got too much to bear, it made me feel better. Later on I would rebel, which led to the inevitable getting thrown out of the house. My high school boyfriend’s parents didn’t like my behavior, and made him break up with me. Not long after, I had my very first suicide attempt.
The next few years are very foggy for me, as I believe that I was in a state of disassociation. I can remember big things like meeting my best friend, and my last two years in high school, but everything from 19-20 is gone. I wound up getting pregnant and gave birth to my beautiful son Jonathan on April 3, 1995. However postpartum depression set in, and I decided to give him up for adoption when he was six months old so that I could be hospitalized. I was then diagnosed as having Bipolar Unspecified and Borderline Personality Disorder. I was put on Lithium and I began my three years of chronic homelessness. I lived in shelters, slept on friend’s couches, and rented cheap motel rooms when I had the money. However, I was referred to a Psych-Social Rehab drop in center and they changed my life
The Friendship Club was my salvation. There I met other people with psychiatric disorders, and they became my family. The staff knew that I had potential, and encouraged my love of cooking by putting me in charge of the new lunch program they were providing. Five days a week I came in, planned a menu, shopped for it, and cooked for the other clients for two years. They also encouraged me to attend advocacy events, and had me run life skills groups on hygiene and pet care. They saw my talents and worked with them, eventually they encouraged me to attend community college. I got pregnant again in 1997, not long after my very last suicide attempt.
I thought having a baby was a good idea; unfortunately the man I chose to have it with was not. Not long after getting pregnant, he began to beat me. I still have a scar under my left eye from where he split my face open with a fist. Not long after my son Robert was born, he broke his own son’s arm. Due to his history of violence, and mine of psych disorders, Baby Robert was taken by the state and two years later our parental rights were terminated. It was the most painful time of my life. I cried every day, and will never forget coming home to his Christmas presents after the final hearing. However, I had no thoughts of suicide or wanted to cut. Even I was amazed. I continued to get support from the Friendship Club, and eventually left Robert’s father. I decided I needed a change, so I moved to Boston.
Boston was awesome; I got a job at Starbucks and started attending Bunker Hill Community College. I started seeing a great psychiatrist who thought my original diagnosis was wrong because I never had the roller coaster mood swings of Bipolar Disorder. She re-diagnosed me with Depression, a generalized anxiety disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. I was put on Wellbutrin extended release, and had the most productive time of my life. I earned a certificate in Food and Beverage Management, made the Dean’s List every semester I attended college, earned a DJ spot on the college radio station, and was elected music director as well. I did tons of political activism, and volunteered for the Green Rainbow party of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, Boston is a very expensive place to live, and I was forced to move back home not long after the passing of my mother.
Mom’s death knocked me down for a while, but I got back up and continued living without self-harm or suicide attempts. I still have an inferiority complex, misread social situations, and tend to isolate, but with my medication and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills I can better navigate my way through life. I lost a lot in my life, but I still have a lot of living left to do.